I grabbed my colored pencils, markers, scrap paper and started doodling.
I once heard the notion of 'gentle nutrition' being like the "cherry atop of an ice cream sundae" on an episode of Christy Harrison's Food Psych podcast a while back, and it stuck with me. Such a clever way to describe an often over-emphasized part of health/wellness.
BUT the idea of each principle being a component of a a sundae suddenly occurred to me* with total clarity and I wanted to sketch it out before I lost it.
One of my favorite quotes by Brene Brown is:
"Unused creativity is not benign".
SO, when the mood strikes I try indulge my creative cravings.
Now, let's break down this picture down, shall we?
- The dish is the base for the banana split and is represented by the first principle of IE (Intuitive Eating):
"Rejecting the diet mentality and mourning the thin ideal".
This MUST be addressed before you can start to experiment with any of the other principles. If weight loss (or attempting to control your body) is still a priority/goal then the rest is utterly pointless.
You cannot eat, move, and live intuitively when you are trying to measure up to societal standards, live by a set of rules, or label things as "should's and shouldn't's".
- Next, the two banana slices. Each is one side of a whole:
"Honor your hunger and feel your fullness".
These are often the two most misunderstood principles and are what can turn IE into a diet, the "hunger/fullness diet" as my mentor Isabel Foxen Duke famously explained here.
Knowing how to feel our fullness and honor our hunger are important components of a banana split, but without the other ingredients it's simply just a banana...
Do yourself a favor and keep those principles in their proper place: As part of the bigger picture.
If anything, I find that IE helps people eat ENOUGH and isn't as much about "controlling" their ravenous hunger as they start out believing it is (That's the old diet mentality creeping back in).
- Then comes the ice cream scoops... 3 flavors that work together in harmony:
"Making peace with food" is what is famously known to outsiders as the "eat whatever you want!" phase.
It can be/seem fun and exciting at first, but very quickly you realize you need to accept the deep healing that needs to take place in regards to food & body image.
(I often use the stages of grief as a metaphor for this principle.)
The "challenge the food police!" scoop is all about turning off the "nutritional informant" voice inside of your brain.
Sometimes an apple is just an apple and broccoli is just broccoli.. they are not fiber, vitamins, and anti-oxidants... they are just food. Carbs are not bad, vegetables are not good, and candy is not evil. The goal here is to get to emotional neutrality and non-judgement.
Once you have made all foods neutral and turned off the 'nutritional informant' part of your brain, you can dig into "discover the satisfaction factor".
Maybe you like apples because they are crisp, sweet, and tart. Maybe you like them best with almond butter or sprinkled with cinnamon. Maybe roasted broccoli is divine with bacon or butter and lots of salt and pepper. Or maybe you like it raw dipped in hummus or ranch dressing (I like everything dipped in Ranch dressing...).
The point is, you are ENJOYING it. It's satisfying to your taste and texture preferences. It has nothing to do with IF it's nutritionally dense or currently trendy, it's purely based on your desires and pleasure centers.
- Above these 3 scoops of ice cream are the 3 toppings. They are meant to work in tandem with the principles below them:
"Respecting your body" is the counterpart to challenging the food police.
Yes, we have human bodies with needs and limitations. We must respect our bodies signals and input. Once you turn off the 'nutrition informant' voice you can invite in the 'nutritional scientist' voice to visit.
This voice is not emotionally involved. It's not skewed by the media, experts, or books. It simply interprets YOUR bodies signals and invites you respect them.
A good example is a food that makes you gassy. So, the 'nutritional informant' might say "broccoli is good for you, eat lots of it!" but when you get gassy and bloated and uncomfortable the 'nutritional scientist' will respond with, "uh oh, looks like this food may not agree with your digestive system today. Let's remember this and adjust accordingly in the future."
"Sprinkling in joyful movement, and feeling the difference" is represented as colorful sprinkles intentionally!
Movement is meant to makes us feel good, energized, and empowered. If you are not moving you are missing out on a part of life that makes you physically, emotionally, and mentally stronger.
If you are OVER-exercising you could be causing more harm than good and can deplete your body and cause injury, illness, and stress. It is truly individual and will vary from day to day. Sprinkle it in and find the joyful balance for YOU.
What would a sundae be without whipped cream?! I love this metaphor because whipped cream is such a emotionally charged food. I spend a TON of time on this one.
Learning to "cope with your emotions without ONLY using food" is one of the biggest challenges clients struggle with partly because they have gotten the idea that ALL emotional eating is "bad".
No, we are emotional beings and eating will be done with, and in response to, emotion. This is normal, healthy, and lovely. What we strive for a variety of coping skills so that eating and food is simply ONE of the tools in the tool belt.
- And lastly, what started it all: "gentle nutrition".
Once you have worked through all the principles and gotten to a neutral and joyful place with food and body THEN it's appropriate to start talking about nutritional therapies and ideology.
The truth is most of us (especially those reading this right now) know plenty about nutrition. We are taught from a young age about the importance of balancing our plates, understanding what is "play food" and what food is "nutritionally dense", so going down that road too early in the IE re-learning journey can be counter-productive and keep us trapped in diet mentality.
The dish and the cherry are book-ends for a reason. The rest of the banana split can be enjoyed in any way you want and in any order you want. A bite of this here, and a combo of that there... whatever way FEELS intuitive to you!